Rangasamy remains Puducherry’s poster boy of competitive populism

Towering presence: A banner depicting Chief Minister N. Rangasamy in the boxing ring with K. Kamaraj.   | Photo Credit: S.S. Kumar

For those accustomed to the poster mania that surfaces in the city during the run-up to the birthday celebrations of N. Rangasamy, who turns 71 on Wednesday in his record fourth stint as Puducherry Chief Minister, the appearance of a reference to filmmaker Pa. Ranjith’s OTT release Sarpatta Parambarai this year was a no-brainer.

Sure enough, one of the posters features Mr. Rangasamy in a boxing ring in the place of the hero of the film, played by Arya, alongside his mentor and inspiration, K. Kamaraj, former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu.

Over the years, more so when he occupied the Chief Minister’s chair, leaders and cadres of the AINRC, a party he founded, have gone to great lengths to display their loyalty in the form of huge banners, cut-outs and hoardings.

In the past, the wall-life version of the man they call Makkal Mudhalvar has featured him in the league of Barack Obama, Roger Federer (a nod to Mr. Rangasamy’s routine of playing a set or two at the Gorimedu grounds) or in the avatar of films such as Baahubali and Kabali. This time, the larger-than-life avatars also include that of “Krishna” in the iconic moment in the Kurukshetra battleground from the Mahabharata. In fact, over-zealous loyalists have not spared the Bay of Bengal either putting up posters on wooden pillars off-shore.

Citizens are hardly amused at the scale of hero worship and the attendant disfigurement of public spaces in flagrant violation of the Puducherry Open Places (Prevention of Disfigurement) Act, 2000.

“As a responsible Chief Minister, as I am sure he is, we expect him to honour the ban on posters,” said Sunaina Mandeen, a resident of Kurussukuppam.

“The minimum thing required in any society is implementation of the rule of law. Whether it is disfigurement of public spaces or implementing the ban on plastic, the will has to come right from the top,” she said.

Puducherry Municipality officials say that the rules had been framed granting exemptions with clearance from the civic body but concede that violations are common.

“Any move from our side to crack down on the violations can potentially trigger a law and order issue. From the perspective of finding a sustainable solution, we are mooting an all-party meeting to sensitise stakeholders on the issue and evolve a consensus on voluntarily ending this practice that mars the dignity and the beauty of the city,” an official said.

Observers say it will be amiss to dismiss the phenomena as a product of astroturfing as the veteran is one of the few to enjoy a cult status among followers, especially in the Thattanchavady-Indira Nagar belt.“This celebration overdrive is disconnected from the image of simplicity and austerity around Mr. Rangasamy’s demeanour and lifestyle,” said V. Selvam, social scientist.

“The very fact that he enjoys such popularity and stature also bestows on him a special responsibility to set an example for his followers. Given the circumstances of the pandemic and a tottering local economy, we would have expected him to instruct his followers to scale back celebrations,” he said.

Appeal to followers

Meanwhile, AINRC Secretary N.S.J. Jayabal on Monday issued an appeal to followers to not to visit Mr. Rangasamy’s house on his birthday as he would not be in town. The appeal was made to prevent crowding in view of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Printable version | Sep 23, 2021 12:43:06 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/puducherry/rangasamy-remains-puducherrys-poster-boy-of-competitive-populism/article35690702.ece

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